Behind the veil of Africa's food crisis exists a historic opportunity to bring the continent into self-sufficiency and earn billions of dollars, according to a new report from the World Bank.
Africa Can Help Feed Africa posits that "Africa can feed itself, earn billions, and avoid food crises by unblocking regional food trade."
It'll take just a few changes, but they won't be easy.
Here's what the report recommends:
First, lower transportation costs, improve the qualities of roads and create incentives to modernize travel equipment and vehicles. Proper equipment and updated infrastructure would alleviate many of the problems food traders face.
The report argues that import tariffs, export bans, quotas, price controls, and other "unpredictable trade policies" severely constrict the export in food staples. Restrictive policies promote "confusion at border crossings, limits greater regional trade, creates uncertain market conditions, and contributes to food price volatility." The World Bank strongly recommends removing barriers to trade in order to spur competition and bring down food prices — both of which would help spur African food production and competition.
Cross-border movement of food staples is further hindered by stringent customs standards and a myriad of different sets of standards for various countries. Improved coordination between states — including the creation of an overseeing body or a "regional database of specialists" — would help tremendously.
Currently, African states have not properly exploited the gains of regional trade, according to the report: " African farmers face more trade barriers in accessing the inputs they need, and more trade constraints in getting their food to consumers in African cities, than do suppliers from the rest of the world."
But the report as a whole unveils an incredibly optimistic vision for the future of Africa:
"The key challenge for the continent," according to Paul Brenton, the World Bank’s Lead Economist for Africa and principal author of the report, "is how to create a competitive environment in which governments embrace credible and stable policies that encourage private investors and businesses to boost food production across the region, so that farmers get the capital, the seeds, and the machinery they need to become more efficient, and families get enough good food at the right price.”
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